The Prospector

Q&A: The creators behind @fitfamep discuss their rising popularity

Daniel Mendez, Sports Editor

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Editor’s Note: The creators of @fitfamep chose to remain anonymous in this interview for binding and professional reasons.

Social media has become one of the main ways people consume entertainment and there is one Instagram account in El Paso that El Pasoans seem to can’t get enough of. The account is @FitFAmEP. It is your one source to find out what’s going on in El Paso—from the latest weekend shenanigans on Cincy and traffic reports to help lost pets find their homes; and you can’t forget about Modelo time.  

The Prospector: Fitfam EP wasn’t always the content we see now, why did you create the account in the first place?

FitFam: The page is run by a few people. We’re really into the fitness scene here. A few years ago, when fitness events started to thrive (the introductions of the LiveFitEP Festival, Supplement Xpress bodybuilding show, and multiple powerlifting and CrossFit meets), we realized there wasn’t a single Instagram dedicated to fitness in El Paso, so we started it as a fun side hobby and initially modeled it after San Antonio’s @fitfamsa.

TP: When did the transformation start to take shape from going to a fitness account to an account that is more newsworthy at times than local news. When did that process start to happen?

FF: We’re also really big on the everyday happenings and culture here, so we’d interject our posts with El Paso-relevant memes and coverage of events outside of fitness. Eventually, people started to submit their own content and we’d repost. We did this for the first two years, and we grew somewhat slowly. It wasn’t until this past spring when we posted a video of two girls falling off of a table at Fool’s Gold that things really kicked off. We had taken on a local ‘TMZ’ or ‘World Star’ vibe and that really started to attract a lot of followers.

TP: Everything submitted is all user-submitted videos, correct?

FF: Surprisingly, yes! Even the fight and drunk videos. We get so many user-submitted videos, that we only post about 25% of what we get. We genuinely feel bad when having to turn some down, but we have to be realistic. If we post too many, people will just scroll through and not enjoy them. Not only that, but people have data plans and we don’t want to rob them by posting fluff.

TP: How often a day do you receive user-submitted content? On the weekends how much content do you receive?

FF: On a usual day, we receive about 200 DM’s. The weekends are intense, with some days topping out at over 400 DM’s, like Labor Day. This gets tough because we have full-time jobs and if we let the DM’s pile up without checking constantly, we might miss time-sensitive content. Also, Instagram tends to glitch when there are too many DM’s and many disappear, only to reappear a few days later.

TP: Do you ever receive something that you question about posting?

FF: All the time. The two biggest examples are violent videos and videos of intentionally reckless behavior. We receive a lot of videos where the fights are just too brutal and gruesome, and if posted it would take away the ‘fun’ feel of the account because we’d essentially be entertained by the life-threatening harm of others. We also get videos of people engaging in crazy physical stunts (‘Jackass’ style) and we don’t post them. Doing that would only foster a reckless culture and encourage people to try to outdo the others.

TP: How do you feel when Instagram removes your content?

FF: Instagram removes the content only when dozens of followers report it. If it gets to that point, we just kind of acknowledge that it did offend some people and move on. It’s frustrating because our algorithm is affected when posts are removed and less people will see our next posts, but we’re a page ultimately run by our followers and their content and suggestions, so we adhere to them. We just hope people got to see the video before it was removed.

TP: Have they threatened to shut down the account?

FF: We’ve definitely been threatened with legal action (a huge reason we try to remain anonymous). We didn’t think running an Instagram page would be this serious! Thankfully, the proposed actions are always dismissed because the content is 100% legal. WorldStar and BarStoolSports are testaments to that.

TP: Talk about the rise of Fit Fam throughout the last couple of months?

FF: Summer brings out the party side in all of us. As more people started to go out, we got more fun, hilarious, post-worthy videos. As our stories became a go-to place to see the daily highlights of El Paso, word-of-mouth of our page spread. Surprisingly, a lot of followers are outside of El Paso… most are people who moved away who miss the experience of home.

TP: Is it weird that El Pasoans look to be featured on fitfam as a goal when they go out?

FF: It’s still so weird to us, but cool at the same time. People around our city are out and about saying the name of a page we started so innocently three years ago. Suggestions have been made to change the name of the page to something related to the content (things like “EP TMZ”), but ‘Fit Fam’ just rolls off the tongue so well.

TP: How often do you receive direct messages from people asking if you can remove a video they may be featured on?

FF: Not that often. For the most part, if someone asks us to remove a post because it could threaten their job or livelihood, we do it. It’s only when they come at us aggressively (and in some cases even making fake accounts posing as a lawyer yet misspelling every word) that they get the “Stevie Wonder” treatment.

TP: You show a lot of good and bad on the account, as not all of it is El Paso debauchery, there is feel-good stories on there. How do you try to balance both or is it if the content is good it’s making it onto the IG story?

FF: You have to grow up in El Paso to understand that the good and bad in our lives are embraced equally. The Mexican/El Pasoan culture is a very direct culture that doesn’t sugarcoat anything. We at FitFamEP believe that’s why many other local social media initiatives fail; when we as El Pasoans see local pages that are full of gleaming positivity as if we all live on a rainbow, they come across as false. Gathering on football Sundays and watching the Tios get aggressively drunk, eating sloppy El Cometa at 3 a.m. after a night of too much partying, seeing a small street fight in the Lower Valley, driving around with an expired inspection sticker, arguing passionately with your girl in the parking lot… these are things many of us have experienced growing up in El Paso; they feel like home. That’s why we believe we succeeded in popularity lately. Sometimes, we’re a guilty pleasure but more often than not, we’re a relatable page where all classes of El Pasoans can find common ground.

TP: How often do you receive messages from people who follow the account telling their side of the story or situation they were recorded in?

FF: Pretty often, which is amazing because it shows our reach. For instance, people who were in a car accident caught on video DM us to let us know they were okay, and we post their status so that any followers that were curious are updated.

TP: The account is growing with over 50,000 followers, some followers from all over the country and world did you ever envision that?

FF: Never! We just wanted to start a page that would help network those in the fitness community of El Paso. Now we’re networking people of El Paso in general and outside communities as well. It’s led to suggestions that we feature other towns in our post, too, but our focus will always remain only on the El Paso area.

TP: If so according to Forbes online Instagram accounts with over 50,000 followers could earn some serious cash, is Fit fam heading towards that direction?

FF: We’ve been fortunate to have legitimate full-time jobs (one is a healthcare executive, one is a Registered Nurse, one is an educator… believe it or not) so we don’t need the money. We do it for fun, and we don’t want people to ever think we’re in it for other reasons than that. We have had offers for people wanting to buy the account, but that would entail either changing the content or giving it up altogether, so we always decline. We recently have asked a small fee for ads, and those usually are for the licenses to the editing programs we use or for paralegal fees.

TP: The account also allows people to win giveaways and cash prizes, is that part of the evolution of Fitfam?

FF: Absolutely. Giveaways are a great tool for local upcoming businesses trying to gain exposure, and we have a huge audience. Whenever we partner with local businesses for giveaways, both the businesses and FitFamEP see a surge in follower engagement, so it’s a win-win.

TP: How else does fit fam keep growing?

FF: We’ve gained about 30,000 followers since December, and that’s because we’ve been consistent with our formula of ‘El Paso Shenanigans’, so we’ll stick to what works. As we’ve gained new followers, we’ve also gained more ‘eyes’ around El Paso. Many of our followers are firsthand witnesses to events around town, and we have started to receive updates and images sometimes faster than the local media outlets. The potential to be a go-to account for up-to-date stories is there, but it will take a lot of constant work.

TP: I personally use Fitfam as a traffic indicator, how does it feel that El Pasoans rely on you delivering them the news quicker than some local outlets?

FF: It’s very cool, but it’s a huge responsibility that we didn’t know we would have. We all have full-time jobs and if we are in a meeting or with a patient, we might not see a submitted video fast enough to post it and update followers. That’s why it’s important to still rely on traditional news media for updates.

TP: You guys have also opened the door for El Paso creatives to be exposed on the account such as @epgoon, is that part of the goal with fitfam to elevate all way of life in El Paso?

FF: Of course. We have amazingly talented people here in El Paso whose talents were fostered and molded by their experiences here. They’re putting themselves and their art out there for the world, and very often do it in a way that pays homage to our town. We feature them as much as we can.

TP: Besides giving out money are there any of plans on actual advertising?

FF: Not at the moment. We’re strictly non-profit and do it just for fun, and we’re happy with where we are now. We’ve grown steadily and are proud of the people who do follow us, because (for the most part) they enjoy the humor and entertainment that’s on the page, and their submissions and suggestions have only contributed to the enjoyable environment.

TP: Who comes up with the EP memes on notes, is it you or is it user submitted?

FF: For the most part it’s us, and they’re so relatable and hilarious because nine times out of ten, they’re things that we’ve personally experienced ourselves, too.

TP: How do you personally feel about what happens in El Paso?

FF: El Paso is an amazing city. All of the account runners have lived all over the world for work, and we’ve each returned because we realize there’s no place like here. The people are beautiful inside and out. Regardless of ethnic background, social status, gender, sexuality, or any other separating factor, we all have this common bond and particular understanding that’s been ingrained in us from being raised together in this city in the middle of nowhere. It does have its goods and its bad, but as a whole, the city has progressed so much the last 20 years and will continue to do so because of its people.

TP: I know you want to remain anonymous but what is the person behind the hottest Instagram account like?

FF: We’re a group of hard-working guys. One is a healthcare executive, one is a Registered Nurse, and the other is an educator. Obviously, we remain anonymous because credentials, licenses and overall professionalism are at stake. However, just because someone has a professional career doesn’t mean they can’t have a youthful (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor. It keeps us young. We’re also very into fitness. It does bruise our ego a bit when followers assume we’re jobless and out of shape, but at the end of the day, the page isn’t about the account runners. All we do is filter and repost. The page is for El Pasoans, by El Pasoans, and it will continue to be that way.

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Q&A: The creators behind @fitfamep discuss their rising popularity